Mr. Mario TORRES, president of Defence for Children International–Paraguay (DCI-Paraguay), inaugurated the Congress stating that it is not always a case of children being in conflict with the law, rather the law being in conflict with the children: policies and method are needed in order to protect children and their healthy development. He went on to note the vulnerability of children being exposed and subject to crime, often as a sole means of survival. A social and educational response is needed, wherein a “restitution” of human rights occurs.
|Mr. Benoit Van Keirsbilck, president of DCI, recognised that institutional violence is unfortunately strongly practiced, particularly in settings of detention. Calling on the need to strongly consider ratification of the UN Convention against Torture, and that of its Optional Protocol, he also pointed out the work done by the office of the Special Representative to the Secretary General on Violence against Children, particularly the roadmap adopted during the South American Meeting on the follow-up to the UN Study on Violence against Children.
When discussing strategies and recommendations for the prevention of criminalization and penalization of children: Ms. Margarida Pressburger of the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“SPT”) – and rewarded during the Congress for her work in Human Rights – discussed the need to promote children’s rights without discrimination and ensure child participation therein. She also stressed the need to guarantee specialized care for children with drug addiction and mentally problems; implementing a system of social-educational care. Ms. Cristina Goni of the International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO) put forward recommendations for the public authorities: modernise the justice system; adopt multifaceted and systematic policies; implement effective preventative programs. Ms. Sara Oviedo, recently elected member to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), highlighted that there are over 100 million children in the region, 15 million of which live in poverty; furthermore she noted that adolescents often remain invisible and that the political situation in the region is the underlying issue.
When discussing the topic of the protection of children from all forms of violence within the juvenile justice system, Mr. Jorge Cardona, member of the CRC, highlighted the need for legal measures, public policies, indicators, inter alia. Ms. Cecilia Anicama, from the office of the Special Representative to the Secretary General on Violence against Children, highlighted the need to fight against impunity and to involve communication tools (noting that children in conflict with the law are all too often stigmatized). She added that children’s rights are not just about legality and morality, but governance.